FCC Wants Some Online Providers to be Treated as Cable Operators

The FCC is drawing up rules that would ensure that certain online video providers would be treated the same as cable and satellite operators, a move that could open up the multichannel marketplace to a whole new source of competition, an FCC official said on Monday.

Such a move would give the burgeoning sector of online video greater access to broadcast and multichannel programming.

The proposed rules would not apply to services like Netflix or Hulu, but only to online video providers that are delivering multiple channels of linear programming, or content that is not on demand. A service like Aereo would potentially qualify, but it would have to pay broadcast stations retransmission consent fees or agree to carry all broadcast channels in a certain market.

The rationale behind such a “technology-neutral” definition of a multichannel video provider, the FCC official said, is to facilitate the entry of new online competitors to cable and satellite operators. The proposed rules could be circulated to FCC commissioners this week.

Kim Hart, an FCC spokeswoman, had no comment.

News of the potential rule change first appeared in Multichannel News.

One online video provider, Sky Angel, filed a complaint with the FCC in 2010 over its inability to get access to cable and satellite channels after it converted to an over-the-top service.

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